Whether it's the beaches, golf courses, or the abundance of palmettos, there's quite a lot that makes South Carolina an attractive prospect for investors to buy property on.
Such a purchase can be a huge step for your portfolio, whether you plan to use it as your primary residence or you simply intend to rent it to others.
As is the case with any investment of this magnitude, it's in your best interests to investigate the cost centers that come with it, as well as elements of regulatory and legal compliance you don't want to be on the wrong side of.
South Carolina property tax seems to fall under both these categories and is something you don't want to be lost to. Local governments will levy property taxes regardless of which South Carolina county you're in.
It's the responsibility of owners to ensure their taxes for all real and personal property are taken care of, which is why we decided to create this quick guide to help you understand how taxes are calculated, what you can potentially do to lower your tax bill, when payments are due, etc.
How Many Times Do You Pay Property Taxes a Year in South Carolina?
First, your tax bill for real property will be sent to whatever address the County Assessor's Office has for you. With that said, your bill will reflect your property ownership status from the previous year's December 31. However, your taxes will become due on January 15th of the following year.
This means that you'll be paying once annually.
Consequences of Late Payments
What happens if you don't meet the established payment deadline? Well, if you should miss the January 15 date, there will be a 3% penalty applied. This is not a constant figure, as it can increase to 10%, should the payment come in after February 1. The amount will again rise to 15% if payment comes in after March 16, with execution costs also being added to the tally.
If April 21st rolls around and the bill isn't paid, there will then be a 2.5% penalty added to the tax bill. Note that the Delinquent Tax Collector will be responsible for collecting these outstanding amounts.
An important note is on the matter of non-receipt of bills. In South Carolina, you must pay whatever taxes are due whether you receive the bill or not. Similarly, not receiving the bill does not exempt homeowners from the penalties alluded to above.
Be that as it may, the County Treasurer can waive the applicable penalties by law if you can provide an acceptable case along with supporting evidence to indicate why the payment was late.
Any delinquent taxes become a home lien, which means tax collectors will attempt to use a Tax Sale to satisfy it. This is a public auction in which the winning buyer is the highest bidder. Once the sale is complete, a homeowner will have 12 months to pay off the delinquent amounts plus any additional costs to "redeem" the sale.
How to Pay a Property Tax Bill in South Carolina
How you pay your property taxes in South Carolina will depend on which county you are in. For example, in Greenville County, which is the most populous county in the state, you are free to play via the internet, onsite kiosk, mail, telephone, or the dropbox located outside the Tax Collector's office.
If you're going to be paying via the internet, you can use a debit card, credit card, or electronic check. You will usually find similar options regardless of your location, with some allowing you to come in and others allowing you to pay more conveniently and from a distance.
Note, however, that South Carolina tax laws do not allow you to pay any current tax bill without first clearing any balances from previous outstanding years. Greenville County, for example, will simply return any such payment attempt.
How Much Is Property Tax in South Carolina?
The annual property taxes paid by South Carolina homeowners will depend on the assessed value of their property and whatever the applicable local tax rate is. Fair market value will be used, with the assessed value being a percentage of that. The percentage is known as an assessment ratio, and this will be applied based on the type of property.
For example, owner-occupied residences will see an assessment ratio of 4%, with non-primary residences having a 6% rate.
Reappraisals must be done by local assessors on all property within their jurisdiction once every five years. The intent behind this is to accurately determine full market value. The assessment ratio, of course, will then be applied to this.
If there is a market value increase to be determined by the reappraisal process, the cap for any such change stands at 15%. However, if there are any changes or additions made to the house or in cases where there is a transfer of property, that cap will not be applicable.
The actual tax rate will be based on local tax authorities that will simply divide the amount of revenue needed to meet the requirements of their budget by the jurisdiction's total assessed value. Your effective tax rate will be what you actually pay expressed as a percentage of your home value and will differ by county.
How Can I Lower My Property Taxes in South Carolina?
Understandably, the burden of paying property taxes can be a really heavy one, which may leave you wondering what you can do to make it easier on yourself. Here are a couple of options you may consider that could help you lower what you are required to pay.
Appealing the Assessed Value
If you think that your home has been incorrectly valued, then as is the case in other states, you are allowed to appeal your property taxes. The process will start will the Assessor's Office and must be initiated within 90 days of receiving the assessment notice.
The appeal process will take place in these steps:
- Consult with the local tax assessor or review your Assessment Notice to determine what figures will be used.
- If you believe that your home has been over-assessed, you will need to show evidence that the value is too high. This can be done by using data from the sales of properties that have a similar profile to yours.
- You will then need to complete the forms required to submit an appeal. These will usually be provided by a county website.
- The next step is to file the appeal to the applicable body. In Greenville County, for example, this will be filed with the Greenville County Board of Assessment Appeals.
- By law, the assessor is presumed to have been correct. Therefore, the burden of proof is on you to come forward with a compelling case to support your opinion of the valuation process. Again, you can use data from sales of comparable properties, evidence of undesirable features of your home, or even images that there has been property damage.
- Attend your hearing in person to actually present your evidence and arguments. The County Board will likely have questions that you will need to answer. Failure to attend the hearing can lead to it being dismissed.
- With the County Board's decision made, if you disagree with it, you are allowed to appeal at the Administrative Law Court within 30 days of the written decision, with the South Carolina Court of Appeals being the final option.
If your home in South Carolina was destroyed or damaged by a disaster, especially in cases where the governor has declared a state of emergency to be in effect, you can look into property tax relief.
South Carolina Homestead Exemption
For eligible homeowners, i.e., those who are legal South Carolina residents for the preceding tax year and are using the home as a primary residence, a $50,000 amount will be exempted from the assessed value of the property. A surviving spouse can also qualify, so long as the person remains unmarried.
South Carolina Senior Citizens Exemption
A similar $50,000 exemption is applied here, with the requirements being income limitations and being at least 65 years old.
Look into other exemptions that may be helpful such as the disabled veterans' exemption, which can grant property tax immunity to those who qualify.
While owning a property in South Carolina is a massive investment milestone, it does come with property tax requirements that can be difficult to navigate. Ensure you understand when your taxes are due, how you can pay, and what you could potentially do to reduce the tax burden.
Remember that legislation can change too, so you want to stay up to date with the happenings.